I opened the box and scanned the contents wondering what long-forgotten treasures laid within. Inside, I found a large stack of playbills and other theatre programs, some ticket stubs, both my elementary and Junior High autograph books, some assorted greeting cards and a small, black leatherette book which I didn’t recognize. I closed the box and set it aside to bring with me.
Nothing about where I was felt surreal or unusual. Yet, here I was sitting in the attic of the house where I lived for 10 months with my ex before we had finally physically separated many years ago. The house will soon be sold so I came to have a look for things I had left behind. Occasionally, I would call down to my son Dustin for help to bring an item or a box down. The attic was full of things that had never been discarded…old clothes, a car seat, a portable crib, some Christmas ornaments, porcelain dolls and other items. Most of what I found, I no longer needed or wanted or didn’t belong to me. There were items I had once treasured that now made me uncomfortable to look at. Joyfully, I did find some real treasures. I found some old VHS videos I had made of my children when they were little, three photograph albums, a nativity set my mother made for me in her ceramic class. Each piece had been meticulously hand-painted. I also found a pile of drawings my children had made and a few other treasures.
Afterwards, I spent time deciding what was indeed a treasured item and what did I no longer want to hold on to. I have spent years practising the art of living in the present. It is an art where wisdom is sought and secured within many moments of decision-making while I strive to find the balance between not worrying about the future yet still caring enough to plan things carefully. Now yet again, here was a moment to decide what mementos of my past were still worth treasuring and what was better still to let go of.
I opened the little, black book I had found in the box. It was a diary I had started twenty years ago and never finished. Imagine that! It didn’t have many entries but the entries I wrote spanned five years. In it I found some long forgotten memories which contained some real treasures.
‘Dustin did 64 multiplication problems in 3 minutes and 12 seconds. I was impressed!’
‘Jadzia played with play-dough and cleaned up afterwards all by herself! She even swept! She’s not even three yet!
‘Tara likes to do cartwheels all the time. She is a great help to me-with Jadzia especially. She is my beautiful ballerina.’
‘Brittany is such an enchanting child, filled with wonder at every little thing of nature…she finds beauty in all things and she is a joy to be with.’
I also found a couple of historical entries about the deaths of both Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. There was a mention of someone I use to know whose spirit I found beautiful which led to me contacting her on Facebook. After reading every entry, I decided it was worth keeping….nothing too embarrassing and some lovely memories for me to share with my children.
We don’t always have mementos that stir up memories. Sometimes memories re-surface on their own. They can be like sparkling jewels in the sun or terrible reminders of social blunders or mistakes we have made. It is much easier to throw away a memento which calls up bad memories or feelings than to push against the feeling itself or to turn your mind to a happier thought. When a sad or bitter memory gets a hold of you with its talon claws, it can be a terrible struggle at best or an out and out inner war at worst. In the past I handled those individual moments differently based on where my instincts led me. Sometimes, it was hard to let go if I am honest. Sometimes, I allowed myself to dwell on those bad memories and most of the time that was a mistake. It was a mistake when it led me to feelings of worthlessness and despair. Some memories can do that. Some can only be diminished through meditation, prayer and/or counselling. In my diary was this 1998 entry:
‘I spent time with the Lord tonight…it was time worth spent! My mind was so cluttered with many things. I couldn’t organize my thoughts. He broke through all that and calmed the storm and a scripture verse came to mind. Matthew 17:21 ‘This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’
Letting go of painful or potentially harmful memories does not mean forgetting them. They will always be in your sub-conscious and will often re-surface. Letting go is transforming your thoughts and feelings about them by realizing that it is in the past–a past you have lived through and overcame. Realize too that you are no longer your past. Eventually, you will begin to view those painful memories as a distant memory and will feel a sense of detachment from it.